With the new academic year scheduled to start in just a few weeks, back-to-school preparations are in full gear, and most parents may have almost completed their shopping.
However, if you’re one of those parents who believe that the summer break went by too quickly, and you’re now far behind on your preparations, the key is not to panic, but to start the process immediately. And, while you’re working with limited time, you are still in a position to take advantage of deals, and save on the cost of books and other school supplies for your children.
Rose Miller, grants manager at the JN Foundation and head of the JN Bank BeWi$e financial empowerment programme, pointed out, that while she strongly advices against last minute shopping, the reality is that some persons will find themselves ‘behind the eight ball,’ when the time comes for back to school preparations.
However, she noted that whether they’re starting out early or late, the principles to carry out your back-to-school shopping remain the same.
“Your first objective is to prepare a list of needs, and prioritise them, dealing with the most important items first; a budget should then be prepared. Uniforms and textbooks should generally be at the top of the list,” she stated.
If funds are tight and you’re unable to buy all the books at once, Mrs Miller advised parents to speak with their child’s teacher to ascertain which of the books are most essential right now, as opposed to those that can be purchased at a later date. “In this way you will be able to ensure that your child has the most important books for the first few months of the school year,” she reasoned.
The JN Foundation grants manager added that when purchasing text books, parents should do their research, shop around, and try to access books, at the most affordable prices.
“Use the telephone or go online; and, you won’t waste time and gas driving around from store to store,” she advised. “Also, it is still not too late to ask friends and relatives to help you source used textbooks.”
Mrs Miller also recommended that saving for back-to-school expenses is critical, to ensure that parents effectively maximise their dollar; and that they are able to save on costs, by taking advantage of existing supplies in stock at the end of the school year.
She noted that parents should have been saving for back to school months ago. “This is one of those expenses that you know will come up months in advance. Once you have a child who is of a certain age, you know that your child will need school supplies, therefore, back to school expenses should not be something that creeps up on parents,” Mrs Miller maintained.
However, she noted that many parents do find themselves in a financial quandary at this time of the year; and advised that to supplement their budget; they should explore the possibility of accessing the various grants and scholarship offers, which are often available.
“You would need to make an early start in your back-to-school preparations, to take full advantage of those offers, as the application deadline for most scholarships would have been long gone,” she indicated.
Mrs Miller also pointed out that there are many book drives and back to school fairs that take place at this time of year and those are some of the options that parents can use to supplement their back to school budget; and secure books and other school supplies for free or at a minimal cost.
“Persons can also access sundry loan offers, which are now available at approved financial institutions; however, parents need to ensure that they are using these credit facilities wisely,” she explained.
Mrs Miller also advised parents to buy quality products, so that they last a long time thus reducing the need to purchase the same items each term. “Items like lunch kits, school bags, shoes, igloos and textbooks can last a long time once they are cared for properly,” she said.
Latoya Halstead, communications director at the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC), also advised parents to ensure that they check electrical appliances and electronic items, such as tablets and computers prior to leaving the point of purchase.
She explained that in the event that a person purchased a defective item, the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) provides for the replacement of the item, or a full refund if a replacement item is not in stock.
“This is why it’s important to retain your receipts at all times,” she said, noting that, “If a consumer changes his or her mind, and no longer wants an item, the CPA does not provide for redress in this situation. It is solely at the discretion of the vendor.”
Miss Halstead also suggested that when purchasing textbooks, parents should check for damage, such as: missing pages; and, verify that the book is the correct edition, author and publisher.